Understanding Symptoms of Withdrawal

by | Jan 27, 2021 | Treatment | 0 comments

symptoms of withdrawal

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Have you ever spent days or weeks away from someone you typically see every day? Possibly a sibling, parent, or spouse. Did you start to miss them, wish you had them with you, and imagine the things about that person that bring you comfort? At first, the feelings seem to progressively intensify. It may be days or weeks until things start to feel normal without them. These feelings are what are referred to as symptoms of withdrawal. Of course, withdrawal symptoms from drug or alcohol use are a bit different and certainly more dangerous.

Withdrawal from a Substance 

The type of withdrawal depicted above is caused by an electrical signal created in the brain, whereas withdrawal from a substance is tied to a chemical change caused by introducing a foreign substance to the body. Alcohol, heroin, and cocaine are just a few examples of addictive substances that can produce symptoms of withdrawal upon cessation of their use. The symptoms can vary greatly from substance to substance and individual to individual. Effects could be both physical and psychological in nature. 

The factors that typically affect if one person will develop withdrawal symptoms and how severe they will be, include:

  • Substance(s) used
  • Amount consumed
  • Frequency of use
  • Length of use
  • Age
  • Gender 
  • Weight
  • Genetics

Withdrawal Symptoms By Drug Classification

Each type of substance has a set of withdrawal symptoms that are normal to experience if dependence or addiction has developed. Here is a breakdown of possible symptoms of withdrawal based on the drug type.

Alcohol

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Chills
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Increased or irregular heart rate
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Fever
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Death

Stimulants

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Dulled senses
  • Slowed speech
  • Loss of interest
  • Slowed movements
  • Slow heart rate
  • Chills
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Impaired memory
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Body aches
  • Cravings
  • Unpleasant dreams

Opioids

  • Agitation irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Depressants

  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Nausea 
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Increased body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions or seizures

Are Withdrawal Symptoms Dangerous?

Symptoms of withdrawal can vary significantly from one substance to another and so can the level of danger associated. For example, opioid withdrawal is almost always unpleasant, but rarely life-threatening. On the other hand, some alcohol withdrawal symptoms are mild. The most severe symptoms, such as delirium tremens, are associated with a significant risk of death. 

Even though withdrawal from one substance might not be directly deadly, the potential for relapse is dangerous in itself. This is why getting help from a professional treatment program can be extremely beneficial in overcoming addiction.

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